MDMA as a Tool for Healing Trauma

MDMA as a Tool for Healing Trauma

Let's talk about MDMA tonight.

I 1000% believe it has a place as a healing tool in guided clinical settings and should be legalized for this purpose.

Let me share a story about this with you.

I want to say up front that I am NOT endorsing your use of MDMA. For one thing, it's illegal. For another, you have no way to validate the purity of your source without a chemical test kit.

It's a neurotoxic drug whose abuse can lead to long-term mental health issues. Repeated usage within a short time period and overheating can permanently damage the axons in your brain which transmit serotonin and jack you up. Want to read more? Here.



That said, the very first time I ever tried MDMA it changed my internal life for the better in some very surprising ways.

Personally, my curiosity outweighed my risk aversion, and I'm glad for the experience. I've seen other people take it and have majorly bad reactions. So with that disclaimer out of the way, let's talk about my experience.

Backdrop: I've spent a lot of my life feeling bad about who I was and anxious about my secrets and socially awkward. In my early 20s I had a lot of anger and bitterness and was needlessly an asshole a lot.

Even after I worked through a lot of my shame and self-hatred with several therapists, it still persisted as sort of background noise in my mind. I had been deeply unhappy with myself and the world as I found it for most of my formative years. Also very anxious, self-critical, hyper-defensive, and obnoxious. Just not fun at parties, which is probably why I didn't get invited to a lot of them. I was aware of this but didn't really know how to fix it.

I felt stuck. I improved on those things with focus and time and self-compassion and the examples of loving and good people around me who showed me a better way to be and helped me see that I wasn't quite as terrible as I thought I was.

This was good. But still, hard to shake that.

Being extremely curious, I had also always been curious about entheogens, particularly psilocybin and mdma. But when you suck at parties, are socially awkward, and never quite figured out how to dance, you don't get a lot of opportunities to experiment with those things. The one time I tried psilocybin in my early life I had a terrible trip that took me years to work through and that kinda turned me off the concept of drugs in general. But that's a story for another time.

I remained curious about it but never actively sought drugs out. It wasn't until I was older than 30 that an opportunity arose to finally try MDMA. At this point I'd done a lot of self-reflection and therapy and healed from some trauma, even if I still felt like an anxious outsider a lot of the time in social situations.

The night I tried it I was very nervous because drugs scare me a lot (from that terrible first experience). I did tons of research up front, which of course doesn't make it any safer but did make me feel better. I was invited to a house party where everyone was going to take it together and hang out, and I had never tried anything like this before.

The first 45 minutes were nerve-wracking because I didn't know what to expect. I had no chill. I didn't know a lot of the guests. It was the perfect cocktail for me to be nervous enough to (usually) run away and hide: strangers to judge me, drugs to make me freak out, music I was going to look and feel stupid trying to dance to. My mind was on overdrive with all my usual neuroses.

When the MDMA kicked in I was totally unprepared for the experience. I felt... transcendent.

It's hard to explain in a way that does it justice. It's like all anxiety, fear, and self-consciousness were stripped away and this massive sense of overwhelming love replaced them. Not love in the romantic sense but love in a completely-positive celebration of all the goodness in the world and desire for everyone and everything around me to be happy and safe and fulfilled and wonderful. I loved everyone and everything around me.

I wanted to call my family and text all my friends and send everyone messages about how much I really cared about them and how much their presence was a blessing in my life and how weird it was that my anxiety and personal hangups had prevented me from telling them that more. And it wasn't in a drug-addled haze of delirium... this was like I was seeing clearly in a way I never had before in my life about the importance of those relationships and connections and how much I valued them.

Even weirder, I loved MYSELF. Everything about me. That, in particular, felt more like coming OUT of a haze I'd been meandering in for decades. It seemed self-evident that I should love myself and have compassion for myself as much as everyone else around me. It seemed insane NOT to love myself. Why hadn't I seen this before?

That whole night felt like magic. It was like a legit transformative Cinderella experience for me. I engaged in conversations with zero awkwardness or self-consciousness and if people seemed uninterested in talking to me, I didn't take it personally and just moved on. I perceived a joy in connecting with people on a human level I seemed to have had trouble accessing prior to that evening. I felt extremely and unusually in tune with the emotions of the people around me to the extreme that I felt like they were "vibing" their emotions at me.

In retrospect, all I was doing was picking up on emotional cues I'd never been able to read as easily before, but it felt like magic because this was never a headspace I'd been in.

Weirdest of all, that was the first night in my life I "got" dancing. I had always danced at parties and social functions (I even took ballet classes for a while) but I didn't like it. I didn't "feel" the music, didn't feel comfortable.

That night, it was like a switch had been flipped and I was able to "feel" the music like people talk about. As I was experiencing the difference between before and after, I suddenly understood why people who had tried to teach me to dance had been confused why I had been confused when they told me to do that. How do you explain how to feel a thing you just... feel? We spent all night dancing and talking and connecting with each other in a completely platonic manner and just appreciating the goodness of the world together as we sat in the backyard and looked up at the stars and cuddled on blankets.

Anyway, this is not an Erowid trip report and I'm not trying to tell you about how cool being high this one time was.

What's more important was what came AFTER the party ended, the drugs wore off, and we all went home. The next day, I was still thinking about the night before in a more clear-headed way and I was absolutely stunned at how I felt about it.

Taking the drug just that one time had allowed me to access a mental framework of love and self-love that I had never experienced. The thing was that it wasn't just about the drug putting me there. It was about the drug SHOWING me that this was a state my brain could be in... drug or no drug.

It was like someone had shook me and said, "Hey, all that self-loathing and anxiety? You don't have to do that."

And even though plenty of therapists and family and friends had drilled that message into me over and over throughout the years, I'd never really grokked HOW to do it.

It was like the dancing thing. How do you just feel something you don't know how to feel? This was monumental for my self-worth and general sense of well being. I can't express enough how much of a revelation understanding HOW to feel good about myself was for me.

The how wasn't the drug--it was a way of perceiving myself and everyone around me.

That ONE experience permanently changed my subjective life quality and put me on a path to greater self-love and greater compassion for everyone around me (which I'm still working on because it's a process!). But it was like the key to the first door that I'd been stuck at.

I was discussing this with my mom a few days ago, telling her this same story, and we talked about the ways that trauma at a young age can lock you into certain negative mental patterns that are very hard to escape from.

Showing me a better way freed me from those patterns. Or to be more precise, it freed me from RELIANCE on that mental framework by illustrating other possible avenues of feeling I could access by showing me a goal to build toward through healthy ways of thinking and living and loving the people around you.

You obviously can't and shouldn't use drugs to constantly elevate yourself into abnormal states of love and wholeness. But as a tool to illustrate the possible when I was mired in a decades-old web of negativity, it was life-changing. This is why I firmly believe that when administered in safe and controlled settings this drug has the potential to create MASSIVE quality of life improvements for people struggling to overcome past trauma and mental hangups.

I no longer use MDMA, and I did do it more than that one time, but what's interesting is that I don't think I had to. The first time opened my eyes. Once can be enough to understand the possible.

And I'm not a constant font of loving compassion. That still takes work. But I DO feel permanently altered. My ability to read subtle emotional cues and feel emotional "vibes" off people never went away. There's a stark before and after for me.

I now know what mental framework I'm working toward and can contrast it with the negativity of before.

And ever since that night I really love to dance. Sober, drunk, high, whatever. But especially by myself when I get hit by the right music. I GET it now. It's awesome. Everyone should be able to access these parts of themselves.

The changes are pretty amazing for me. I don't think I would be as readily able to laugh things off or not take things so personally without having had that experience. Many of my friends and family have noticed a marked positive change in my demeanor since that night.

These are all things that make me happy.

Developing the capacity to love yourself opens the door to truly loving other people because you want the best for them without the envy associated with feeling like you don't deserve the same goodness in your life.

I want everyone to be able to develop that in themselves. We always have more work to do here, but this drug in particular is a tool that should be used to help people break through negative barriers in carefully controlled ways.

I now follow MAPS and vehemently support their work. ( However... please don't rush out and be careless because I took a risk and had a good and important experience. I don't want anyone to get hurt on account of my story.

But I do think we need to explore the legalization and clinical applications of MDMA.

It changed my life for the better and has so much potential to heal people of their personal emotional trauma.